Mikhail Haramati – Alchemy

Solo Exhibition

from: 25.09.2019 2pm  to: 28.09.2019 7pm

Opening Tuesday, September 24th, 6-9pm, US painter and policy maker Mikhail Haramati’s solo exhibition at SomoS Berlin visualizes the alchemy of water recycling.

Water has been a bountiful theme for painters for a long time already. While artists such as Turner, Monet, Hokusai, or Hockney concentrated on the picturesque, today’s pressing environmental concerns made Sacramento-based visual artist Mikhail Haramati choose an approach that is both didactic and aesthetic, unafraid of less delicate depictions.

Haramati’s solo exhibition Alchemy at SomoS depicts the transformation of wastewater into clean water as a contemporary example of this chemical-magical process. At the end of her three month artist residency in Berlin, Alchemy presents a series of realist paintings that take the city’s wastewater treatment plants as subject in order to render visible a major unseen process that facilitates modern life.

Drawing from her memory and her own photographs, Haramati uses an artistic vocabulary that brings to mind early 1970’s US realist painting. With an almost classical Modernist enthusiasm for the potential of progressive industrial processes, she brings the viewer’s attention to its practical, but also poetic aspects. Portraying cycles of waste and renewal, she captures fleeting moments of introspection and beauty, bringing to mind Environmental Art and that of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

With Haramati’s background in climate policy and experience with water conservation, Alchemy is intended to stimulate an interdisciplinary discussion between art and environmental policy.

Viewing wastewater treatment processes as critical, yet unknown to the majority of urban inhabitants, Haramati’s pieces depict the processes at several of Berliner Wasserbetriebe’s plants processing the waste of Berlin.

Not only interested in their technical aspects, Haramati is also inspired by the unexpected beauty of such sites. Step-by-step, her work takes visitors through the stages of treating sewage, depicting its incredible transformation with remarkable attention to detail and artistic invention.

As art collector and retired environmental activist William Barclay says, “Mikhail’s paintings point to a deep internal synthesis of art and the environment, while falling outside what is usually considered “environmental art.” Taking a sewage plant as an unlikely subject, Mikhail successfully re-imagines its colors, forms and functions into engaging visual landscapes which ultimately seduce viewers into deeper consideration of the technological interfaces between our shared human environment and the natural world. Mikhail’s shimmering paintings surprise and excite with possibility.”

Ultimately, Alchemy aims to ignite thought and discussion on a process that is but one example of many unseen crucial industrial endeavors that are easily ignored or forgotten and must remain analog in our increasingly digitized society.

While Haramati’s paintings are not only executed on canvas but also on water filters salvaged from the treatment plants which she visited, Alchemy finds novel ways to portray the unseen processes of human waste treatment. Recontextualizing its practical implications through delicate painting and dream-like video, her engagement for the subject of wastewater treatment effectively becomes a means of questioning how to create awareness for developing a sustainable human existence on the planet.


On Tuesday, September 24th at 7pm, there will be a panel discussion featuring Mikhail Haramati in conversation with Ulrike Franzke of BerlinerWasserbetriebe. It will be moderated by Federico Hewson, a speaker on the nexus of art and environmental concerns.

Thanks to the Berliner Wasserbetriebe for their friendly support.


Mikhail Haramati (b.1982) is an American painter based in Sacramento, CA, USA. In 2006, She obtained her BA from Mills College, Oakland (CA).

She presented her work recently in solo exhibitions at The Urban Hive and Momentary Glance at Capital Public Radio Studios, both located at Sacramento (CA) in 2019 and 2017; as well as Works in Oil, Loanna Clark Gallery, Petaluma (CA) in 2004 and ​Patriotic Scenes of Northern California, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco (CA) in 2003.

The artist also participated in group shows such as A Sense of Place, CK Gallery, Oakland (CA), 2012; Emerging Artists Under 30, A St Gallery, Santa Rosa, 2002 and, in 2011, at SOMArts Bay Gallery and Auction, San Francisco (CA).
More information


Mikhail Haramati – Alchemy
Opening Reception & Artist’s Talk: Tuesday, September 24th, 6-9pm
Duration: September 25-28, Tuesday-Saturday 2-7 and by appointment (free entry)
SomoS, Kottbusser Damm 95, 1.0G, 10967 Berlin
(U8 – Schönleinstraße)
Free entry
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